NYIFF 2017 Film Review “Ventilator”



First, the Recap:

What can one truly say about kin? Sure, there’s the immediate family–wives, husbands, kids, aunts, uncles, first cousins–but then arrives the realization that it can extend so far beyond that, via in-laws, their folk, etc, etc. Yes, it can be just slightly overwhelming, even more so when planning an event gets interrupted in a most unforeseen way. It’s the tiny village of Konkan, and the highly anticipated Ganpati festival has come, much to the delight of the entire Kamerkar clan. With the palpable excitement and chaos of making arrangements in full swing, the abrupt news about the hospitalization of family patriarch Gaju Kaka sends shockwaves through the entire group, and even more pandemonium commences.

Leading the charge to the hospital in Mumbai is Gaju’s nephew RK (Ashutosh Gowariker), the heralded “success story” of the clan in his claim to fame as a Bollywood director, along with Gaju’s son Prasanna (Jitendra Joshi), Prasanna’s sister Sarika (Sukanya Kulkarni), and Prasanna’s mother Manda (Sulabha Arya). Then, the ICU is additionally invaded by a massive gaggle that is every other extended family member possible, all in a stir over how Gaju’s eventual removal from his ventilator and subsequent passing will impact Ganpati preparations. But soon, everyone’s conversations and entire focus devolve further into an ongoing cacophony of topics ranging from politics, business, film, and religion to unresolved personal issues between family members, even as other events unfold.

It’s only when RK’s father, Bhau (Satish Alekar), arrives on the scene that the real magnitude of what’s important, plus the value of everyone’s relationship to Gaju and each other, is made abundantly, painfully, yet poignantly, clear.

Next, my Mind:

One of the many aspects this reviewer continues to enjoy about Indian cinema is the ability to witness such perfected amalgamations of themes and moods that normally might clash turned into amazingly entertaining and affecting narratives.  This is certainly the case with writer/director Rajesh Mapuskar and co-producers Madhu and Priyanka Chopra’s engaging, whimsical, and stirringly touching dramedy that shines an all-too real, truthful, and very much necessary light on what it means to be human as well as kin. Priorities shift on a whim, so easily distracted by matters that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t come close to comparing to the immensity of merit found in being there in time of need for those we adore, to reflect on how much they’ve done for us, to bury differences, make amends, and find total solace knowing they are and always have been loved.

The masterful effectiveness demonstrated with this large ensemble cast is nothing short of incredible, as the sheer number of “talking heads” which have a part in this story is simply staggering. Yet, it is firmly organized mayhem which allows so many of these accomplished actors to unquestionably provide us with formidable and memorable performances. Gowariker totally shines as RK, a man whose deep concern for his Uncle is being constantly buffeted by other members of the family and hospital staff who suddenly seem interested in only his stature as a Bollywood director rather than the condition of his beloved relative. Watching this character navigate the frustration and his varying emotional state of being is touching, and Gowariker emotes extremely well.

Joshi excels as Prasanna, Gaju’s son, whom we find has hidden resentment towards his father that have been stewing within for his whole life, only now coming to the surface in this time of finality. Seeing the character’s other life issues getting revealed only serves to make the impact of his awakening earnest, sincere, and heart-changing. Alekar, as RK’s father Bhau, brings a dominating presence to the scene, as his character’s appearance signals a major alteration of mood and sensitivity to events for everyone in that ICU waiting room. His good-hearted but firm sensibilities totally transform RK and Prasanna’s perceptions of Gaju and who he is to each of them, leading to the aforementioned wake-up call for Prasanna and a needed reconnection with his own son, RK.

Kulkarni, Arya, Viju Khote, Sanjiv Shah, Nilesh Divekar, Rahul Solapurkar, Shashank Shende, Achyut Potdar, Usha NadkarniNikhil Ratnaparkhi, Swati Chitnis, and Deepak Shirke are but a few of the marvelous cast achieving notability here in supporting but no less important turns, as well as the perfectly wonderful cameos from Priyanka Chopra as herself and Boman Irani as a long-suffering doctor to boot. In total, with its terrific music score, stellar cast, innocent whimsy, and potent drama on full display for the entire runtime, “Ventilator” is a sublime regional independent film well worthy of the notoriety it has received. It’s one of those films that should cause us to take a good hard look at our own family, take full measure of the time we have with them, endeavor to make the most of it, and never let the trivial things in life get in the way of that bond.

As always, this is all for your consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!

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